I regret to report that HB 2193, the bill that would expressly make it illegal to blow grass onto the highway, was tabled yesterday by a sub-committee of the House Courts of Justice Committee. As we riders are aware, grass on the road can be a hazard to motorists, especially motorcyclists, and particularly in curves when the grass becomes wet. As 8:30 rolled around last night we found ourselves being the last bill heard. Despite re-writing the bill, the sub-committee did not believe that we adequately addressed their concerns that the bill would impact property owners whose activities on their property would not adversely affect motorcyclists. The bill as re-written would have prohibited intentionally placing grass or grass clippings on a paved roadway with a speed limit of 35 MPH or greater. A violation would have been a class 3 misdemeanor, which carries only a fine. Delegate Roxanne Robinson, our patron who carried the bill for us, has vowed to work with us again next year to address this issue. This is not the first time it has taken the Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists (VCOM) multiple years to address an issue, nor do I imagine it will be the last.
There is, however, good news coming out of Richmond. VCOM worked closely with the patrons of two competing motor vehicle inspection fee bills. One would have raised the fees on both motorcycles and automobiles; the other would affect only automobiles, raising the maximum fee from $16.00 to $20.00. The first bill was laid on the table (killed) and the second was allowed to move on. So, for the second year in a row, motorcyclists have dodged an inspection fee increase.
We also have good news to report on SB 1364 and HB 1780, which are identical bills that would change the definition of a salvage vehicle to remove the requirement that the vehicle be a late model vehicle. VCOM had concerns with these bills as they could have adverse effects on the ability to rebuild a totaled motorcycle and put it back on the road with a clean title. Many times, older motorcycles are totaled due to cosmetic damage only; this is because of the lower value of many motorcycles as opposed to cars. Under these bills those motorcycles would be salvage vehicles and would have to carry a branded title. Both bills are being sent to be studied by a committee to determine the best way to address the issue. We have been told by DMV that VCOM will have a place on that committee.
Finally, HB 1941 has been passed out of subcommittee unanimously. This bill increases from a Class 6 felony (Maximum 5 year penalty) to a Class 4 felony (Maximum 10 year penalty) the punishment for a person who, as a result of driving while intoxicated in a manner so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show reckless disregard for human life, unintentionally causes the serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment. The bill also creates a Class 6 felony for a person who drives in the same manner and causes serious bodily injury, but not permanent and significant physical impairment, of another person. VCOM strongly supports this bill. Too many of our members have had their lives forever changed due to the actions of a drunk driver.
As always, if you have any questions or comments concerning any of the pending legislation affecting Virginia motorcyclists, please do not hesitate to contact me.
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group